Heal the Bay’s Report Card Rates Best and Worst Beaches

Heal the bay

Marking significant improvement, overall water quality at California beaches this summer was excellent, according to the 2007 End of Summer Beach Report Card released by Heal the Bay.

Heal the Bay assigned an A to F letter grade to 494 beaches along the California coast, based on levels of bacterial pollution reported from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. This summer, 92% of beaches received A or B grades during the reporting period. These good grades represent a nearly 10% rise from last year, when only 83% of monitoring locations earned A or B grades.

California’s record low rainfall this year, which limited polluted urban runoff in storm drain systems, played a major role in better water quality. Enhanced infrastructure at several sites also led to rising grades. There were only 38 locations in the state that received fair-to-poor water quality grades.

The Beach Report Card is based on the routine monitoring of beaches from Humboldt County to the Mexican border by local health agencies and dischargers. Water samples are analyzed for bacteria that indicate pollution from numerous sources. The better the grade a beach receives, the lower the risk of illness to ocean users.

“The combination of record drought and completed Clean Beach Initiative projects led to the cleanest summer water quality in years,” said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay. “With more beach cleanup projects on the horizon, the prospects for this positive summer becoming a trend are great.”

The completion of numerous dry weather runoff diversions, treatment plants and source abatement efforts has led to improved water quality at numerous California beaches, according to Gold.

Los Angeles County once again has the worst ocean quality grades in the state, with 17% of its beaches earning F’s during the summer. On a positive note, Santa Monica Bay monitoring locations received high marks this summer. Bay beaches received 93% A’s and B’s, actually surpassing the statewide average. Only four of the 67 Santa Monica Bay beaches earned poor marks this summer, compared to 16 last year.

Despite improvements, a few Santa Monica Bay beaches still regularly exceeded newly adopted bacteria standards from April 1 to Sept. 3. The beach at Santa Monica Municipal Pier, Marie Canyon in Malibu, Dockweiler State Beach at Ballona Creek and Redondo Municipal Pier beaches were the worst offenders.

Long Beach continues to suffer from poor water quality. More than 50% of Long Beach locations received grades of C or worse, but that marks an improvement from last year, when nearly 88% of beaches scored poorly

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Orange County once again enjoyed excellent water quality this summer, with 96 out of 104 beaches monitored registering an A grade. Doheny Beach, usually one of the most polluted in the state, continues to show improvement. It reported excellent water quality at multiple locations for its second summer in a row. In fact, this was the cleanest summer on record for Doheny Beach.

San Diego County also notched top marks, with 99% of its beaches winning an A or B grade. The only dark spot this summer was Pacific Beach Point, which received a D.
Santa Barbara County also enjoyed an uptick in water quality this summer, with 85% of its beaches getting A or B grades. Last year, only 70% of its monitoring locations reported good grades. Meanwhile, 100% of the 54 beaches in Ventura County earned high marks, with Rincon’s B the only non-A grade in the entire county.

Beaches along Central and Northern California almost uniformly earned A grades, including those in San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Santa Cruz’s Capitola Beach and Monterey’s Stillwater Cove showed dramatic turnarounds from last year’s near-failing grades.

Water quality in Humboldt County varied widely because of late seasonal rain this spring, with some of its five reporting locations earning F’s. However, most sites improved dramatically as summer wore on.

Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is made possible by the generous support of Ford Motor Company, the Goldhirsh Foundation and simplehuman.
A fact sheet detailing the exact methodology used in determining grades for each location is available at the Heal the Bay website.

Report Cards on the Go

In an effort to make water quality information easily accessible from any location at anytime, Heal the Bay and technology partner GoLive! Mobile have launched a new service that offers Beach Report Card grades via text messaging.

Oceangoers can now get instant water quality grade information for any of the nearly 500 beaches monitored statewide on their cell phones or other mobile device.
Users can visit Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card website to find the keyword name assigned to their beach. They can then send a text message with the beach’s name to the number 23907. The current grade for that beach will be text messaged back instantly.

About Heal the Bay

Heal the Bay is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to making Southern California coastal waters and watersheds, including Santa Monica Bay, safe, healthy and clean. We use research, education, community action and advocacy to pursue our mission. Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card program is in its 17th successful year.

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